There is something in my partner's eyes that holds my attention long past the conversation, or the quick encounters in the hallways of UNCLE. I sometimes feel haunted by them, late at night when I think I can sleep but find myself fixated on the cool blue gaze of Illya Kuryakin. It's an eerie feeling to know someone as well as I know him, and yet not know him at all. If that sounds confusing, you ought to try being his friend. We can practically read each other's minds when we're out in the field, and our confidence in being able to do so is what helps us survive time after time. Still, there's something locked away that only seeps out just a little when you look in his eyes.
What bothers me is the residue of the past that hides behind the confident affect, or the coolly indifferent stance that he has cultivated and used on so many people. When he's in a crowd there's an unspoken warning: Don't touch me, I'm dangerous. Even among friends, the barriers are raised, forbidding anyone to attempt to scale the walls that have been erected for the purpose of…I'm not sure.
Does he hide from people? Yes. I've always thought one of the things that makes him a good agent, or spy, is his ability to hide himself among so many other personalities. He moves easily from one to another, making me wonder at times if he prefers it that way rather than having to always be himself. It's not that he hates himself, that would be too much the line of the shrinks he has to encounter occasionally. Nor do I think he has a death wish, in spite of the extreme risks he's been known to take. A man who wanted to die would have done so by now; he's had ample opportunity.
Lots of people like my Russian partner. He is just good looking and enigmatic enough to keep the women dreaming about him, wondering what it would be like…well, you know. The mystery keeps them coming back for more, even though I suspect that very few have known the pleasures he has to offer. Still, I have heard he does actually have a love life. It would be hard to prove because he's so damn calculating and secretive, and whether it's for the lady's reputation or his own, I don't have a clue.
He is at once a chivalrous knight and a scavenging renegade. He might save your life, but on another day be just as willing to offer you up to the cause of justice. Don't mistake his acts of kindness as a perpetual state of being; things can and do change. He is a man of high moral fiber, if I can use that phrase. The fact that he will take a life doesn't preclude the absolute certainty that he also treasures life and couldn't be in this business of saving the world if he were callous about such things.
Perhaps more than anything, I know he's my friend. He has saved my life too many times to count. He has helped me steer through impossibly difficult circumstances and back to a safe harbor; he is that for me, and I know he does this for no one else. His loyalty is absolute, as though carrying out a divine dictate or a course of destiny. If I lose everything else in life, I know the compass on which I've learned to depend will remain, always true to the course.
So, why do the eyes bother me? Because I recognize that once, many years ago, before the war or his service to the Soviet Union, he was a child with dreams. Maybe it only lasted a short time, but at some point in his childhood, he looked out at the world and saw something good and warm; maybe the love of his mother or the babushka he still talks about. There was something in his life that would have made him think life was kind. He hadn't yet seen the horrors of Nazi soldiers as they murdered family and neighbors. The blue eyes didn't recognize the image of hate and violence that he would grow up to fight, sometimes willingly offering himself as a type of sacrificial lamb for a cause that is not as noble as his own precious life.
Illya's eyes seem lost in a world not of his own making, in spite of his independence and self-reliance. He has never really had the opportunity to be his own man, because someone has always owned him. Even now, he lives at the whims of old men who send him out to save a world that is no more at risk than he is; his future and freedom is always hinging on his exacting obedience to the terms of a contract he didn't sign.
He is hated by some in America for his nationality, while at the same time despised by his own countrymen for the same reason.
Illya Kuryakin's ability to live each day as though it were a solitary gift is his saving grace. He lives in the now, conscious of today and not so presumptuous as to think he has a right to more. He hasn't been here long enough to embrace that concept of an unalienable right to happiness in the depths of his soul. I keep hoping he will.
I also hope that one day, the blue eyes that beckon admirers and repel enemies with equal ferocity, will be free of the remnants of whatever sorrow or pain is detected there. Maybe a single incident will unlock the answers, or something in the journey of his life will finally lead him to whatever is needed to remove the hindrance to his finally being completely free. In the meantime, I'll be there for him, just as he is for me. Partners…brothers…friends. We'll keep fighting the good fight together.